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Kolkata, April 6

THE East Coast Railway (ECR), complete with three divisions at Khurda Road, Waltair and Sambalpur and the headquarters at Bhubaneshwar, posted a 9.9 per cent growth in traffic in 2004-05 at 70.16 million tonnes (mt) against 64.07 mt in 2003-04.

The earnings from freight traffic at Rs 3,010 crore (Rs 2,705.27 crore), registering a growth of 11.26 per cent.

Interestingly, coal, accounting for nearly 50 per cent of ECR's total traffic throughput, posted lowest growth of less than one per cent at a little more than 35 mt. By far the biggest growth, more than 63 per cent, was achieved in foodgrains traffic whose volume was negligible at less than one mt.

Iron ore exports at more than seven mt posted a growth in excess of 37 per cent, followed by fertilisers, a growth of over 36 per cent at a throughput of more than three mt, cement more than 18 per cent growth at around one mt and pig iron and finished steel from steel plants nearly 16 per cent growth at close to 2 mt and raw material for steel plant more than 4 per cent growth at a throughput of around 7 mt.

The ECR has a set target of about 73 mt for the current year (2005-06), envisaging a modest five per cent growth. This is because the authorities do not foresee a major breakthrough in the throughputs of two of the major items of traffic, namely, coal and iron ore for exports.

The transportation of increased volumes of coal by the conveyor systems to the thermal power stations located on the pitheads and by merry-go-round system to other power stations will restrict its large-scale transportation by rail.

According to one estimate, an estimated two million tonnes of thermal coal, likely to be imported through Paradip and Visakhapatnam in the current fiscal at the rate of one mt each, will boost the coal traffic of the zonal railway.

The ECR is also hoping that the development of more mines under Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd will push up the average coal loading of wagons.

As for iron ore exports, the prospects do not appear to be too bright because the tippler now under major breakdown at the Visakhapatnam port, is unlikely to come back to stream before October.

Around the same time, pipeline transportation of the ore for Essar will start. Any significant increase in transportation of iron ore exports to Paradip by rail is ruled out unless the infrastructure improves. In 2004-05, up to a maximum of four rakes of iron ore for exports were handled per day and further increase, it is felt, will be difficult to achieve in the absence of capacity expansion of the railway network.

The other items whose throughputs are likely to increase in the current fiscal include raw materials for steel plants by around three to four lakh tonnes, finished steel by an estimated four to five lakh tonnes, fertiliser imports by about five lakh tonnes and cement (around 1.6 lakh tonnes), foodgrains (1.7 lakh tonnes) and petroleum products (one lakh tonne).

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated April 7, 2005)
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